So, I see that my app which I can write this blog with on my phone got an update today and seemed to fix some of the weird stuff that was kind of preventing me from writing on here. Of course, a big factor still remains that I only have my cell phone to access the Internet and write on my blog, which isn't the most convenient or the fasted way to type. Anyway, I wanted to write a post tonight not only because the app is fixed but also to tell about my Guagua experience tonight.
As a reminder, Guaguas are the little mini buses that drive all over the cities here. They are one of the main forms of public transportation in the Dominican Republic. The buses that are even smaller are called Guaguitas.
I would say that an average Guaguita has 10-12 manufactured seats in them, not including the driver. However, that does not mean that only 12 passengers can fit into the vehicle. The conductors of each Guagua will keep recruiting people to get on, even if the person has to sit in other people's laps. (The conductors are the guys who usually hang half way out of the doors hollering out to people on the street trying to get them to get on their Guagua.) Almost ever Guagua or Guaguita I have ridden here has been completely packed at one point or another during my trip from point A to point B. I found some good images of Guaguitas on the Internet to give you an idea of what they are like - and yes, these are really what they are like. They are not exaggerated photos.
As you can see from the image above that there is a woman in the front seat sitting on someone's lap, and in the back there are two people trying to squeeze their way in while there is already a guy sitting on the edge of the seat next to the door. This my friends is how I get around Santo Domingo on a daily basis. And in all reality I think it is quite fun and entertaining. If nothing else it is a great experience to see how other countries and cultures are conducted in their everyday life.
Speaking of entertaining, onto the story of my Guaguita trip home tonight from Zona Colonial and why I wanted to write this post. A group of us were on our way home tonight and we were spread throughout the vehicle. Courtney was in the front by the chófer (driver), Alex and Alicia were in the first row, John and I were in the next row and Sonni was in the back.
By the time we got to Avenida Abraham Lincoln the Guaguita was packed. Shortly after we passed Avenida Abraham Lincoln I felt some brush up against the back of my head. At first I didn't think anything of it because people are so crammed like sardines that people don't really have personal space and are always brushing up against you. Well, a few seconds later I felt it again but only this time it felt more like someone had pulled on my hair and not just brushed up against it.
I turned my head slightly to see if I could see what was going on. Between the fact that I was squished with John on one side of me and some lady on the other, I couldn't really turn around very easily without being obvious I was wanting to see what kept touching my hair. Seconds later I felt another gentle tug and brush against my hair. (What the heck?)
At this point I was a little weirded out wondering who was doing this to me and then the thought came to my mind that it could very well be Sonni since she was sitting on one of the seats behind John and me. I thought she was maybe trying to get my attention. So, I turned around a bit more and looked at her. However, she looked back at me with an odd look on her face, shook her head and while pointing to the people next to her she said "it wasn't me, it was them..."
Okay, I was back to being weirded out. Why was my hair being stroked like I was a dog and also slightly pulled? I looked at John and told him that the person behind me kept touching my hair and that it was quite awkward. As he chuckled it happened again. Sonni said my name to get my attention and so I turned around. She said that the lady behind me really liked my hair and that's why she was touching it. Although I was still a little weirded out I turned to see her, smiled and said gracias.
I couldn't understand what her and her friend were saying, but aparently this woman really liked it because she kept playing with it. I turned a bit to try and be involved in the conversation they were having with Sonni. All three of them were giggling although I didn't understand what the woman said. Sonni then looked at me and told me that I should be flattered and that I should enjoy it because people in the states don't just randomly stroke another person's hair and compliment them in how much they like it while riding public transportation - at least not very many people, especially in Utah.
For the next ten minutes or so before I needed to get off the bus we were making friendly conversation (mostly them and Sonni because I had a hard time understanding many of their sentences). Meanwhile this lady kept playing with my hair and making comments on how she loves the color, etc.
By the time I got off the Guaguita I was no longer weirded out, but rather glad to experience such an odd event like that. Sonni is right that I should have been flattered and the fact that it most likely will not happen back in Utah. It is just another thing that I have experienced here in the Dominican Republic that has helped me understand and appreciate different cultures, people and personalities.